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Bathiudeens’ lawyer claims conspiracy to undermine national level Muslim politicians



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney-at-law Rushdhie Habeeb alleges that the recent arrest of All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader Rishad Bathiudeen, MP, in connection with the ongoing police investigations, is part of a despicable conspiracy to undermine Muslim politicians at the national level.

Habeeb said so yesterday (28) in his capacity as the lawyer for Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Bathiudeen when The Island sought clarification as regards the Opposition political parties’ response to the latest development.

Responding to another query, Habeeb emphasised that the government, under tremendous pressure from various parties, particularly the Catholic Church over the delay in bringing investigations to a successful conclusion, was pursing a political agenda.

The lawyer said that he represented the interests of MP Bathiudeen, his brother, Riyajj, and their families, as well as the ACMC.

Pointing out that Bathiudeen had been in the Cabinet of the then Presidents, Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019), Habeeb said that several MPs, including SJB leader Sajith Premadasa, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Mujibur Rahman, Mano Ganesan, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, Imthiaz Bakeer Markar, Manusha Nanayakkara and Harin Fernando, both in and outside Parliament, had questioned the government strategy.

Habeeb said that on his behalf, a junior lawyer sought a copy of the Detention Order obtained by the CID in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) from the Director, Criminal Investigation Department (CID). The DOs allow the CID to detain the Bathiudeen brothers for 90 days. Director, Media, Police headquarters, SSP Nihal Thalduwa yesterday confirmed the issuance of DOs.

In a statement issued soon after the police arrested the Bathiudeen brothers, in the early hours of Saturday (24), Habeeb said that the SJB constituent, the ACMC group in Parliament, comprised four lawmakers, including Rishad. In addition to them, there were 169 ACMC members in Local Government authorities, Habeeb said, underscoring the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage didn’t receive any incriminatory evidence in respect of the former Minister.

 Appreciating the public stand taken by Opposition lawmakers, Habeeb called for, what he called a greater consensus among those genuinely opposed to the government strategy.

Weeks after the Easter Sunday carnage, all nine Muslim politicians, including Bathiudeen, relinquished their ministerial portfolios in the wake of the then UNP National List lawmaker Ven. Atureliye Rathana undertaking a fast demanding the removal of Rishad Bathiudeen and two Governors-Azath Sally (Western Province) and M.L.A.M. Hisbullah (Eastern Province). In late July, Bathiudeen and SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem were among those who re-accepted ministerial portfolios, claiming investigations cleared them.

 Asked whether the UNP backed the ACMC led campaign against its leader’s arrest, UNP Chairman Vajira Abeywardena yesterday said that the arrest of lawmakers in the absence of proper charges couldn’t be condoned under any circumstances. However, the UNP wouldn’t want to take a stand hastily as regards MP Bathiudeen’s arrest. “We’ll let the public know our stand once the party studied the case.”

 At the time Bathiudeen was accused of close links with the now proscribed National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ), blamed for the Easter Sunday carnage, his party functioned as a constituent of the UNP-led coalition. In early 2020, Bathiudeen switched his allegiance to the SJB. Habeeb alleged that the government targeted MP Bathiudeen because he backed Sajith Premadasa at the 2019 presidential election.

Habeeb strongly denied much publicised police headquarters accusations that the Bathiudeen brothers aided and abetted those responsible for the Easter carnage. The latest arrests were made close on the heels of the SJB alleging that those in power now, are suppressing the Easter Sunday investigations. The lawyer said that the government was yet to respond to specific questions raised by lawmakers Manusha Nanayakkara and Harin Fernando in Parliament.

 Meanwhile, an officer who had been with the intelligence apparatus told The Island that the CoI was fully briefed of pre – and post-developments of the April 21, 2019 attacks. Terming the accusations as politically motivated the ex-military man said that the CoI report would help the ongoing police investigations as well as studies undertaken by the Attorney General’s Department.

According to him, a full disclosure pertaining to certain aspects of intelligence operations would undermine Sri Lanka’s relationship with friendly countries. Therefore, both the government and the Opposition would have to address the issues at hand, cautiously.

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Parliament prorogued



by Saman Indrajith

Parliament has been prorogued with effect from midnight yesterday (27) by President Ranil Wickremeisnghe under Article 70 of the Constitution. The Department of Government Printing issued the Gazette notification annoucing the presidential order yesterday evening.The new Parliament session is scheduled to commence on Feb. 08.

A prorogation, which is a temporary recess of Parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning Parliament may be advanced by another Presidential Proclamation, provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation.

When Parliament is prorogued, the Proclamation should notify the date for the commencement of the new Session of Parliament, under Paragraph (3) of Article 70 of the Constitution.

During the prorogation the Speaker continues to function and the Members retain their membership, even though they do not attend meetings of Parliament.The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current Business before the House, and all proceedings, pending at the time, are quashed, except impeachments.

A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same Session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent Session, after a prorogation.

“All matters which having been duly brought before Parliament, and have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation of Parliament, may be proceeded with during the next Session,” states the Paragraph (4) of Article 70 of the Constitution.

In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not put an end to pending Business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new Session. At the beginning of a new Session, all items of Business which were in the Order Paper of Parliament, need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.

At the end of a prorogation, a new Session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the President. He is empowered, under the Constitution, to make a Statement of Government Policy in Parliament, at the commencement of each Session of Parliament, and to preside at ceremonial sittings of Parliament, in terms of the provisions stipulated in Paragraph (2) of Article 33 of the Constitution.

The President is empowered to make a statement of Government Policy at the commencement of each new Session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.

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LG elections may turn violent – CPA




Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and co-convener of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu has warned that the March 9 LG polls (if held) may turn violent as political parties are fighting for their survival as the results of the election may be considered as a referendum. He said it was doubtful whether the election would be held.

Dr. Saravanamuttu sounded this warning at the conference on Campaign Finance Regulations, convened by the CMEV, and Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), which was held last Thursday (26). He recalled that once when he asked former President Mahinda Rajapaksa about campaign and party finances, the latter’s reply had been as follows: “I am not going to tell you the whole story, I cannot tell you the whole story and I will not tell you the whole story”

The Campaign Finance Regulation Act became law last Tuesday (24) and Dr. Saravanamuttu pointed out that the former President’s quip highlighted the challenges of collecting information on exactly how much is actually being used. “It is important that the public should know, whether it be cash or kind, from where the money comes from. And the information be made available to the public.”

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President: Cabinet has agreed to implement 13A fully



President Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Thursday, informed the All Party Leaders Conference on Reconciliation that the Cabinet was agreeable to fully implementing the 13th Amendment.Issuing a statement on Friday, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said the President is bound to implement the laws of the land and the 13th Amendment is a part of the Constitution.

“The 13th Amendment has been in existence for over 30 years. I must implement it. If anyone is opposed, they can bring in a constitutional amendment to change it, or abolish it,” he said.

The President said that the country has to decide whether to fully implement the 13th Amendment or abolish it. “We can’t decide to do neither. Any MP can bring a private members motion to abolish the 13A. What happens when most people don’t support the motion? We will have to fully implement it,” he said.

The President said that he is working, according to a Supreme Court decision, on 13A. “We have to look, especially at the decision given by Chief Justice Palinda Ranasinghe. We are still in the bounds of a unitary state. I am against a Federal state but I support the devolution of power to provinces. The provincial councils don’t even have the powers enjoyed by the City of London. So we can’t call this a federal state,” he said.

Wickremesinghe added that former President J.R. Jayawardane and his lawyers took great pains to prevent the 13A from leading to a federal state. He added that at the end of the war, against the LTTE, a large number of lands in the North and the East, that belonged to private owners, were under the control of the Army. However, most of it had been returned to the people, under presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena.

“Only about 3000 acres are under the security forces. The forces must be given the opportunity to release these lands, without hindering national security. The Land Commission, too, must be immediately established. The draft on that can be presented by March. The Commission will have nine members, from each province ,and 12 will be appointed by the President. The we can come up with a national land policy and the Commission can implement the land policy,” he said.

The President said that 30 percent of the land will be allocated for forests. Large swaths of forests, in the upcountry, and in the catchment areas, for rivers, have been destroyed.

“We must increase the forest cover and the Land Commission must be entrusted with this,” he said.

The President added that he will provide further information, on February 08, on how the amendment will be implemented. He urged political parties to submit their proposals by February 04, the Independence Day of the country.

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